Yoshiharu Gotanda has been working for professional programming studios since he was 17 years-old. He later wrote a novel called Tale Phantasia, which he never published, and turned it into the popular game Tales of Phantasia. He's now working on the final stages of an RPG called Infinate Undiscovery which he claims is the culmination of 10 years worth of ideas which can only be realised by the power of the Xbox 360. Development studio tri-Ace, who have been releasing the Star Ocean franchise of RPGs since 1996, have stated that the genre will "undergo a true evolution" with the release of this game.
A rather bold claim to make, and it's made almost solely on the back of the game's major premise - that player choices will lead to "unknown discoveries" which will change the gaming world in real-time. That's a similar claim to one we've heard in various different forms from all kinds of adventure, action and RPG games several hundred times over the past decade and leaves one wondering what IU is actually going to do that makes it special.
IU focuses on situational battles. This means that players can often invoke certain features during a battle scenario in order to gain a victory, often these features will be hidden and the player will have to find out about them using their own intuition, thus the term "undiscovery". Examples shown so far include exploding barrels and knocking ogres off balconies, not exactly the most hidden of tactical treasures; but we'll assume that tri-Ace have a little more up their sleeve.
Many of the battles in the game take place in unusual situations and with specific goals which sometimes don't directly involve defeating foes. Players will be required to flee from certain battles in ingenious ways and through precarious situations rather than stand and fight. You see, the main protagonist, Capell, is a flute player and not a warrior in any respect, he isn't much of a fighter in fact. Much of the game revolves around his struggle to succeed by using methods other than brute force.
Of course, being a flute player in a Japanese RPG doesn't mean you're just some guy who can move his fingers really well. Actually you're a magic flute player... surprise! Capell will later develop the abilities to dispel magic attacks, distract enemies, recognise illusions, and talk to animals. There has also been some mention of characters being required to "make use of scent", but no details are available on this yet; interesting none the less.
It turns out that Capell has been mistaken for a freedom fighter/hero whom he bares a great resemblance to, and as such is imprisoned at the beginning of the game. Said freedom fighter is the leader of a bunch of rebels fighting for the freedom of ... the moon. Because actually the moon has been chained down in order to harness some sort of magical power it has. It all sounds like a slice of standard Japanese craziness and, incredibly appropriately, the evil organisation behind all of this are called "the Order of Chains."
The player will take control of a party of characters, usually four but apparently larger in certain situations, which can be selected from a pool of 18. A specific focus has been placed on situations which make use of all the characters special abilities - encouraging the chopping and changing of the team throughout the game, and aiming to get the player to make use of all of the characters at one point or another.
Although it remains unclear exactly what IU's development is going to translate into, the game has that smell about it of an innovator, a game built from deeply creative thought. If anything, that's a good reason to take interest. If not, then maybe the beautiful, colourful graphics will do it for you instead. The game is due for release on Xbox 360 in September 2008.
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